Tuesday, 16 November 2010


In the previous blog posting I told you about baby Kyle and how he ended up in the care of Monkey Helpline surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans. It was a sad tale of death and orphaning. Now I can share with you an experience that will bring tears of joy and leave you elated knowing that tragedy can have a happy ending.

But first I must take you back about six weeks prior to the rescue of baby Kyle - (Top pic shows a crying, blood-smeared Kyle newly rescued off his dead mother's body).

Monkey Helpline was called out to Hudd Road, Athlone Park in Amanzimtoti by Grant Thomson, who had spotted a pregnant female Vervet in his garden with a really bad injury to her left arm. A lover of the Vervet Monkeys, Grant had watched this female as she struggled to compete for food and appeared totally out of sorts because of the severity of her injury, and he felt that we might be able to help her. As soon as we saw her we decided that we needed to trap her and get her to our vet, Dr Kerry Easson of Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North, for a check up and treatment of her injury.

We trapped her and rushed her straight to Kerry who, after sedating her, diagnosed a severe and badly infected bite wound to that region of her left arm above and below the elbow, and cutting right through the muscle and main tendon at the back of her arm just above and through the elbow. Kerry re-attached muscle and tendon and Leila, as Carol had named her, came to the Monkey Helpline High Care to recover.

Three weeks later Kerry checked her almost fully healed injury and declared her fit for release. Our attempts over a number of weeks to reintroduce Leila to her troop failed. The first time we tried to return her to her troop almost ended in disaster. Shortly after we released her, a group of adult females viciously attacked her, chasing her into a house where we managed to recapture her, and during both subsequent attempted releases they were so aggressive towards her whilst she was still confined in our transport cage that we decided it would be too risky to release her in her advanced state of pregnancy. We felt that in her best interests and those of her as yet unborn baby we should now place Leila in a rehabilitation programme.

Unfortunately, two weeks later Leila had a miscarriage, giving birth to a dead but fully formed, close to term, baby!

Now back to baby Kyle!

After taking Kyle into her care, Jenny took him to vet Kerry where a thorough check-up confirmed that he had miraculously survived the violent death of his mother without so much as a scratch or bruise, and that all the blood Jenny had cleaned off him was in fact his mother’s.

Back home, Jenny wrapped Kyle in a blue blanket, bottle-fed him, then carried him with her to check on the monkeys in her outside recovery cage. As Jenny approached the cage, Leila immediately came right up to her and gazed intensely at the blanket. Jenny opened the blanket so that Leila could see Kyle. To Jenny’s amazement Leila reached through the wire and gently touched Kyle. She clearly wanted to take the baby. Jenny phoned us right away, so we raced over to her house to see if Leila would actually take Kyle from Jenny and adopt him as her own.

With Carol trying to video-film the whole thing, Jenny entered Leila’s cage with Kyle. Leila rushed forward, grabbed Kyle from Jenny, tucked him into her body and ran back to her sleeping basket. We held our collective breath as she inspected Kyle and left us in no doubt that she had adopted him the moment she laid eyes on him.

Kyle, though, was not that easily convinced that this was his new mother. He squirmed and twisted and climbed and cried right through the remainder of that day and the next. He was a baby from hell, but Leila did not flinch. She gently pulled him back every time he tried to escape her hold, pushed his face firmly against her nipples encouraging him to suckle, all the time making sure he was safely within the circle of her arms. In his frustration to “escape” to his own mother who, no doubt he still believed was somewhere out there waiting to “rescue” him, he bit and scratched and pulled at any part of Leila’s body he could reach. Her gentle and loving resolve was just awesome to behold and she tolerated everything he could throw at her, holding him tight and kissing him on top of his little head and over his face in an effort to console and comfort him.

Of course Leila had not actually had a baby and it was exactly seven days since her miscarriage, so she had no milk in her breasts. And Kyle was getting hungry, and also grinchy, and he needed food! So we had no choice but to catch Leila and steal Kyle back from her. Jenny kept him with her long enough to give him two good bottle feeds and then gave him back to Leila who grabbed him from Jenny the moment she opened the inner door of the cage. Kyle, his little tummy full of warm milk, spent a comfortable night sleeping tightly clutched to Leila’s comforting body. Throughout the next day, which happened to be Friday, Leila loved and nurtured Kyle whilst he put on his very best brat kid performance. She, on the other hand, was being the best mother any little kid monkey could ever wish for – though he did not yet appreciate his blessing! He did however latch to his adoptive mom’s nipples – both nipples in his mouth at the same time as is the way with Vervet babies – but she still had no milk and this must have contributed greatly to his unhappiness. So once again, at the end of the day, we had the unenviable task of catching Leila and taking Kyle away to be bottle-fed. And once again Laila was waiting at the door to grab Kyle back from Jenny after he had drunk his fill from the bottle.

I must mention that throughout this entire process we were constantly in touch with our good friend, Karen Trendler, one of South Africa’s foremost wildlife care-givers and rehabilitation experts, who is also Monkey Helpline’s rehabilitation and wildlife husbandry advisor. Karen’s calm support and advice were invaluable!

Come Saturday morning and Kyle seemed very content as he suckled from his new mom - (in contrast the centre pic shows a sad, newly orphaned baby Kyle with his rescuer, Karon Hutchison, her husband, Gary, and son, Kyle), and Leila was going about her business unfazed, one protective arm always holding Kyle close and safe. But by that evening Jenny was like a mother hen with a newly hatched brood of chicks who were all running in different directions. She was convinced that Kyle was getting weaker, that he was dehydrated and that we must come and get him for her to bottle-feed again. You see, Jenny is used to being the surrogate mom, where she can feed and feel and touch and love the baby monkey - she is lovingly in control, just like any good mother should be! It was really hard for her to watch baby Kyle from a distance and not know if his tummy had food in it or not! So Carol and I went over and had a good look at Kyle. He seemed fine to us. But, just to be sure, I phoned Karen and discussed with her what I was seeing. She asked the right questions, got the answers and suggested we leave Kyle till the morning and see how he was doing. She reckoned that if he wasn’t acting all irritable, was latched to the nipples, looked bright-eyed and was firmly attached to his new mom, he was probably fine and that in all likelihood Leila was starting to produce milk.

By Sunday morning Kyle was still suckling, wasn’t crying and looked pretty strong. And we haven’t touched him again. He is the happiest, healthiest baby monkey you could ever meet. Leila has milk to spare and is the most awesome mom. She absolutely loves her baby!

So how did this all come together so beautifully after the terrible tragedies that befell Leila and Kyle?

When Leila gave birth to her dead baby, she carried the tiny body for two days. We decided not to take the baby away until she allowed Jenny to do so. When she did put the body down, Jenny went in, picked it up and wrapped it in a blue blanket. Outside the closed inner gate, Jenny put the little bundle on the ground then opened it enough for Leila to see her dead baby. Jenny left it like that for a while then wrapped the baby and took the bundle away. When, five days after taking Leila’s dead baby away in a blue blanket, Jenny showed baby Kyle to Leila and got the response she did, she had by complete coincidence also wrapped Kyle in a blue blanket. Only afterwards when we discussed Leila’s first reaction to Kyle did the importance of the blue blanket strike us. Jenny suddenly recalled that Leila had last seen her dead baby taken away in a blue blanket, and now when Jenny opened a blue blanket again there was “her” baby, alive! Some might scoff at this but we really do think that Leila might believe that Kyle really is her baby. After all, we have rescued little monkeys hit by motor cars or bitten by dogs and left for dead. We have treated them and successfully reunited them with their mothers, three, four, and even up to ten weeks later. The mother has recognized her child and taken it back and the experience is something that we cannot find the words to adequately describe – it is simply mind-blowing!

Now the future looks bright for mom and baby. They will form part of a seed troop that is bonded together as part of a process of bonding a larger number of rescued monkeys into a full size troop that will, in a few years time, be rehabilitated into the wild where they will live as all releasable monkeys should – FREE!!!

Sunday, 07 November 2010

What an eventful past few weeks. I could write three blog postings every day in an effort to keep you abreast of everything we have experienced and witnessed. There has been heartache and elation, incredulity, anger, confirmation in our belief that most people are genetically programmed to be caring and compassionate, and even laughter.

In this blog posting I’ll share with you “part 1” of an experience that grows from the depths of desperate heartache to the unexpected pinnacle of elation.

Heartache as we gathered up the broken bodies of five Vervet monkeys killed south of Durban on the N2 in one tragic incident – three on the southbound lanes and two on the edge of the median adjacent to the north bound lanes. Two adult females, their two-year old daughters and an about-to-be-born baby, all killed by motor vehicles, with the unborn baby literally smashed from her mother’s broken body. And as we darted across a busy freeway collecting the bodies, two newly orphaned young Vervet monkeys sat in a nearby tree calling pathetically for mothers and siblings whose answering calls and loving caress they would never hear or feel again.

There will no doubt be criticism of our risk-taking on a busy freeway to collect the bodies of already dead monkeys, but unfortunately, leaving them on or near the road often results in further tragedy as related monkeys, especially the youngsters or mothers of those killed, run back onto the road confused as to why the dead or injured monkeys are not moving or following. Furthermore, dead animals left in the road often lead to the death of other animals, such as raptors and mongooses, even domestic dogs and cats, who attempt to feed off the freshly killed animal.

The two monkeys on the median had been moved there by Karon Hutchison who witnessed the terrible tragedy and couldn’t bear to leave the two bodies on the road surface where they would be mangled by racing wheels. It was as she was about to move the body of the adult female that she noticed the little baby miraculously still clinging to his dead mother. In disbelief she removed the totally unharmed baby from his mother’s body, took him home with her to St Winifreds and called Monkey Helpline. That’s where we met baby Kyle, named after Karon’s son who was lovingly holding and nurturing the baby when we arrived to take over the responsibility of caring for the tiny tot. (Top pic shows the proud trio of Gary, Karon and Kyle Hutchison with baby Kyle, just before handing him into the care of Monkey Helpline).

En route back to Durban we rang Jenny Morgans, Monkey Helpline’s human surrogate mother of note, and told her that a newly orphaned Vervet monkey baby was heading her way. By the time we reached Jenny she had already prepared a warm bottle, a cuddly toy and warm, soft blanket to welcome Kyle.

(Bottom pic is a close-up of baby Kyle - a few days old yet already orphaned).

With baby Kyle safely entrusted to the best care possible other than what he would have experienced with his own mother, Carol and I turned our attention to the next rescue call-out!

But if the tragedy of part 1 has left you sad and despairing, then look out for part 2, to follow shortly. I promise it will leave you smiling and with a warm feeling in your heart!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010



Gremlins even sneak into blog postings and this happened when the wrong pic found its way into the post, "Monkeys in the news - again!" Close inspection will show that the top pic in the post is not the adult male, Nico, rescued from Winklespruit, but rather a pregnant female who was also rescued in Hudd Road, Athlone Park after being attacked and badly bitten by other monkeys.

Nico will get his chance at fame in a future post!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Monkeys in the news - again!

What follows formed the basis of a good article that recently appeared in the "Fever" news tabloid which is distributed free of charge to residents of the upper South Coast area of KwaZulu-Natal. The article sparked a good response from readers, most of which was positive and supportive of Monkey Helpline and the monkeys :-
Yesterday was a typical day for Monkey Helpline rescuers, Steve Smit and Carol Booth, and that two of their rescue calls were from the Amanzimtoti and Winklespruit area came as no surprise.

“We have come to expect that a disproportionately high number of monkeys in this area are victims of the deliberately cruel actions of people who are intolerant of monkeys and who believe that they can injure or kill monkeys with impunity”, said Steve.

“Our first rescue yesterday in Winklespruit was a mature adult male Vervet with severe bite wounds to his lower back and neck. These could have been the result of a fight with another male monkey. However, the injuries did not appear to be the cause of the monkey’s poor state of health and we suspect that x-rays will reveal one of more lead pellets that have been deliberately shot into the monkey as he moved around his territory”.
(Top pic shows Nico, as he was named by John from Winklespruit who kept an eye on this monkey until rescuers arrived to catch him, in a transport box en route to the vet for a check up. He is recovering well from the terrible wounds that were so infected he was dying from the toxins flooding through his body. Initially the wounds did not seem to be the main cause of his poor state, but as the infected wounds healed, it became obvious that they had indeed been the cause of his debilitated state.)

Steve says that over eighty percent of all the monkeys rescued by Monkey Helpline over the past number of years have got lead pellets lodged in various parts of their body. “Many of these monkeys were in the process of dying a slow and painful death and those who could not be saved by veterinary intervention had to be humanely euthanised. Shooting animals with a pellet gun is extremely cruel, unnecessary and illegal and we will lay charges against any person identified as discharging a pellet gun in a residential area, whether or not they are actually shooting at monkeys or any other animal. Discharging or even pointing a pellet gun in a residential area or anywhere that poses a danger to another person or property is illegal in terms of specific paragraphs of Section 120 of the Firearm Control Act, At 60 of 2000. Shooting an animal with a pellet gun is also an offence in terms of the Animal Protection Act”.

The second rescue yesterday was in the Amanzimtoti area in Hudd Road, Athlone Park, and sadly was a little female monkey only eighteen months only. “She had been shot into her head, the pellet smashing through her left eyebrow and lodging in her brain. She stumbled around for hours as her brain swelled and eventually she fell off a garden wall and thrashed about on the ground until she died”. The person who called Monkey Helpline to rescue the little monkey thought she had been poisoned, but as soon as Steve and Carol arrived on the scene they noticed the pellet wound to the monkey’s head. “She suffered terrible pain and anxiety before dying”, said Steve. “She tried to keep up with her troop as it moved along but became disorientated and lost her way. A neighbour said he had seen her in his garden earlier that day and realized that something was wrong with her, but she disappeared before he could phone for help”.
(Lower pic - Fifteen-year-old Shannon Wood, the schoolgirl pro-Vervet crusader, who helps out at the Monkey Helpline "high care" every spare moment she has, goes on rescues with us and also takes care of baby and "special care" Vervets, holds the little monkey who died horribly after being shot in Hudd Road, Amanzimtoti. She also sets up and manages our education table at the Essenwood Market every Saturday. She is one awesome little lady!)

Steve appealed to people having problems with the presence of monkeys to call Monkey Helpline for advice on how to deter them humanely. “We have helped thousands of people throughout KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere in South Africa who have had problems with the presence of monkeys, and those who say our advice does not work for them are in a minority who just don’t want to make the relatively small effort to put our suggestions into practice”.

At the time of the rescue in Hudd Road, Monkey Helpline volunteers leafleted the area with information about pellet gun cruelty and the legal consequences of discharging a pellet gun in a residential area. During this process the volunteers met a number of Athlone Park residents who were horrified about the shooting of the little monkey and undertook to report any person they saw using a pellet gun. “This was absolutely the same response we get wherever we go”, said Steve. “Only a small minority of people will deliberately resort to cruel and illegal methods to kill monkeys or chase them away from their property. With the support of law-abiding and caring people we will identify the shooters and we will have them prosecuted”.

Getting nespapers to run articles on Monkey helpline and the plight of Vervet monkeys in Southy Africa is critically important to the success of our efforts on behalf of these persecuted, maligned and misunderstood little animals. If readers of this post have any contacts in the media who they can get to write pro-monkey articles, then please get them to contact us!

Sunday, 19 September 2010


“I own a thatched property in Marina Beach, lower south coast. My roof is being systematically destroyed by a troop(s) of monkeys. When I contacted my insurance broker about a claim to effect repairs, he told me that monkeys are classed as vermin, so I would not be able to claim for the damage/repairs. Is this the case?If monkeys are vermin, is it legal to poison them like rats & mice? I understand the need for conservation of nature in the area. However I can't afford the bills to continually repair my thatch”.

Above is an extract from a letter I received this past week, and it so clearly illustrates the stupidity that informs the thinking of a small but dangerous number of morally retarded cretins whose actions are having a terrible impact on the lives of many monkeys throughout KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of South Africa. What kind of twisted mind are we dealing with, who even considers poisoning as an acceptable means of resolving his problems with monkeys?

Certainly in KZN monkeys are not classified as vermin and it is most definitely illegal to “poison them like rats and mice”! Fact is that monkeys are protected nationally by the Animal Protection Act and provincially by the KZN Nature Conservation Ordinance. They are also protected by the efforts of organizations like Monkey Helpline, various animal protection groups, and by a not insignificant body of ordinary people who feel very strongly about the welfare of monkeys and other animals.

Which brings me to the point of this blog post, namely, to show that without the support of the animal-caring public, Monkey Helpline cannot carry out its mandate to educate, rescue, provide veterinary care, post-veterinary care, rehabilitate, release or provide life-long sanctuary.

Yes, without this support Monkey Helpline would not even have known about most of the three-hundred and twenty-seven rescue callouts we responded to between January 1 and June 30 this year. These calls originated from across the age, race and gender spectrum, from people representing all sectors of our society, but all of them with three things in common – decency, integrity and compassion!

And if this seems like a high number of monkeys in need of our help, believe us when we tell you that it represents only a fraction of the total number of monkeys suffering and dying in places where no caring person gets to see them and do something to help. If Monkey Helpline rescue figures are extrapolated to the total area traversed by troops of monkeys throughout KwaZulu-Natal every day, then a staggering number of monkeys are being injured or killed here every year. Judging by the non-scientific observations by Monkey Helpline rescuers of the situation as it affects urban Vervet monkeys, it is not unrealistic to fear the extinction of these little animals within the lifetime of our current generation.
(The pics exhibited in this posting show just how deranged a person can be. Top pic shows a beautiful adult male Vervet with an arrow shot from a bow through his arm. Next pic shows the x-ray of his humerus shattered by the arrow just above the elbow joint. Bottom pic of this monkey after the broken arrow was removed from his arm, with veterinarian, Dr Kerry Easson holding the three pieces of arrow.)

If you want to make a real difference for monkeys in South Africa, you cannot do better than to show your support for our efforts to help them. We know from our day to day experiences, and the people we meet and talk to, that there are far more people who care about the welfare of monkeys than there are people who dislike and loathe monkeys to the extent of harming or killing them. Unfortunately the pro-monkey people are not as vociferous about their feelings as are the anti-monkey people. We need to let these anti-monkey cretins know that they are a small minority whose aggression and violence towards monkeys will not be allowed to go unchallenged.

So, how do YOU show the monkeys that you are batting for them?

Its pretty simple. Arrange with your kids' school for Monkey Helpline to come and do a Power Point-supported talk to pupils and teachers. Volunteer to work at the Monkey Helpline “high care” and recovery facility. Distribute Monkey helpline leaflets. Become a "monkey monitor”. Help us at our Essenwood Market table on Saturdays between 8.30am and 2pm – an hour or two whenever you can, would be a great help. Become a Monkey helpline member, donor or sustainer. This and so much more – contact Steve or Carol on 082 659 4711 or 082 411 5444 respectively or email us at steve@animalrightsafrica.org .
Remember, without your help and support we cannot continue helping monkeys in distress. THE MONKEYS NEED YOU!!!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Ever so "Flippin' Cute"

Monkey Helpline blog readers will recall the little Vervet monkey that Carol was holding close in the blog posting of 16 August, “Monkeys still in harm’s way”. Since named “Flippin’ Cute”, because he is such an amazingly affable and bright little chap who holds no grudges against humans in spite of the despicable and cowardly way he has was attacked by some pellet gun-wielding low-life, he has made an amazing recovery.

In addition to being shot three times into his small body, of which at least one pellet went into his chest, he also sustained a badly fractured skull, probably after falling out of a tree or off a roof when he was shot (top pic shows just how swollen Flippin' Cute's eyes were after the trauma to his head).

Now both eyes are completely open and he has perfect vision (centre pic). There does not, at this stage appear to be any brain damage in spite of the severe concussion he suffered. He has an amazing appetite and already I am trying to convince Carol that he is a tad plump! And he is ever so cute!!

Evenings, whilst Carol is doing admin work he sits next to her on the table with a bowl of mixed food and chomps away to his heart’s content. And he watches TV with a real interest (bottom pic), responding to various things he sees, especially the animals on Animal Planet. He was terrified by a big dog even before it barked, watched curiously as a cat was treated by a vet, and then jumped into Carol’s arms and hid his face in her jersey when a turkey gobbled.

He is uncharacteristically afraid of other small monkeys and so he is being introduced slowly to two other monks of about the same age. It is important that he keeps in touch with his monkey-hood because we will make every effort to reunite him with his troop and his mother. If we don’t succeed in doing this he will be bonded into a troop of monkeys being prepared for rehabilitation and release. Sadly, at the time we rescued him he was alone with no other monkeys around, which means that his mother had abandoned him after he was injured, or else she too had been shot and was unable to stay with him. Quite possibly she is dead! Healthy mother Vervets don't easily give up on their babies!!

Let’s hope we get to see Flippin’Cute running back into his mother’s arms – and Carol’s tears will be a mixture of sadness and joy!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

RIP, Grumpy Face!

Sometimes I wake up and I just know it’s going to be one of “those weeks”.

How do I know this? I don’t know, but I do. Experience has taught me that some things, though not many, it is better I do not know!

Anyway, it was Monday morning, August 16th, and “one of those weeks” started! Not the busiest week we’ve ever had – just uncoordinated and bitty! Rushing at the last moment to do a school talk that hadn’t been confirmed until two minutes previously. This after spending the time before and after dropping kids at school discouraging the resident Juvenile Crowned Eagle from honing her hunting skills on any of the twenty-one cats who have found a home with us. Perched high in the old Flamboyant tree (top pic), she is a magnificent animal and we are really privileged to have her spend so much time in our garden, even if the monkeys recovering in the outside cages don’t appreciate her presence in the same way we do. In fact, harsh as it might seem, her visits are good for our juvenile monkeys who were rescued as orphans, because they have gained very valuable life skills from her presence, as our older monkeys, who know what a threat Crowned Eagles are to Vervet monkeys, saturate the upper end of the valley with alarm calls for as long as the eagle is in sight. All the younger monkeys hide in the back of their cage in silence and won’t even peep out until the older monkeys sound the “all clear”.

Usually our day starts with cleaning cages and feeding monkeys. We get as much done as possible before taking kids to school, and hope like crazy that we don’t get an urgent rescue call before we have the time to get home, finish what cleaning and feeding still needs doing and then jump into the shower or bath.

An uneventful Tuesday was followed by a hectic Wednesday. Dropping kids at school early enough to be able to negotiate Pinetown’s early morning traffic so that we could get to a school talk by 7.50, we got a call from monkey-lover, Brenda, about a monkey attacked by a dog in the garden of a Manor Gardens home at the upper end of her road. So, whilst rushing to rescue the monkey, we called and rescheduled the school talk for next week. Arriving at the scene of the incident we saw that the injured monkey was a magnificent male from the troop that Brenda feeds at her home every day, and from which we had previously, on separate occasions, trapped and treated two members in need of urgent veterinary attention. During the time spent trapping the monkeys at Brenda’s house, Carol had got to know this particular monkey very well, even naming him “Grumpy Face”. By the time we arrived at the house where Grumpy Face had been attacked, he had already climbed a tree and was just out of our reach. Seriously injured after being bitten into the chest by the dog, a large male Rhodesian Ridgeback, he was still mobile enough to avoid capture as I climbed the tree in an attempt to get close enough to net him. So, darting with a sedative was the only way to go!

Enter Senior Inspector Dougie Du Plessis of the Durban SPCA, who arrived as soon as he could after we called him, considering he had to traverse Durban during morning rush-hour traffic. A well-placed dart galvanized Grumpy Face into action and he clambered painfully into the highest, thinnest branches of the tree, with all the rescuers and volunteers who had gathered, surrounding the tree to block his escape should he decide to try and get out of the tree. But he had no such intentions and just clung to the branches as if his life depended on it, which it did, trying to find a comfortable position to ease the pain that must have been swamping his body with every breath and movement.

After what seemed an eternity we all agreed that he looked drowsy enough for me to climb the tree and attempt a net capture. Not that easy because of the way a Cedar tree grows its branches, but eventually, after abandoning the net, with Carol and Dougie and the volunteer team below ready to catch the monkey if he fell, I managed to snare his tail using a catch-pole, and with him still having plenty of fight left in him in spite of his injuries and the sedatives, I guided him down the tree as gently as I could, making sure of keeping clear of his lethal canines!

Brenda just broke into tears at the sight of one of her beloved monkeys so injured and close to death. We got Grumpy Face to the vet as fast as we could, but sadly he died literally as we arrived there. What a tragedy to see such a magnificent animal die so senselessly (bottom pic shows a heart-broken Carol holding Grumpy Face just after he died). With the dog’s owner having initially claimed that the monkey attacked his dog for no reason, though Carol very quickly put him right on that by explaining that monkeys only ever bite dogs in self defense and never just attack a dog because they are vindictive or having a bad day, we were left wondering whether there was another dog- bitten monkey to whose defense Grumpy Face had rushed, bravely sacrificing his own life in the process.

With most of his troop in close attendance during the entire rescue operation, we certainly had not seen any other injured monkey, and a post-rescue search also yielded nothing. What we did see and which touched the hearts of all who had gathered, was the pregnant female monkey who stayed close throughout the whole incident, calling gently to Grumpy Face in an attempt to entice him to follow the troop, which, for the safety of all its members usually only stays in the same place for as long as is necessary and must keep moving throughout its territory. It is a sobering experience to watch a troop of monkeys milling around anxiously as they delay their departure in the hope that their injured troop-mate will regain the strength needed to follow them. But eventually they do leave and in this case the loyal female was forced to leave too, as the safety of her unborn baby and that of her one year–old remained her primary responsibility!

Look out for the upcoming separate blog postings in which I’ll share with you the collection of incidents that coloured the remaining days of the week!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Monkeys still in harms way

The reaction from blog readers to the previous blog about the pregnant female from Hillcrest who had to be euthanised because of the damage caused to her body and her unborn baby by the five lead pellets that had been shot into her was quite phenomenal. Readers were outraged by the brutality of the unwarranted attack on a pregnant monkey and all wanted to know if it would be possible to identify and prosecute the guilty person/persons.

Yes, it is possible to identify and prosecute the scum who would be so callously cruel to an innocent animal. But only if we get a sworn statement from an eye witness. If it seems that simple, it isn’t!

(Top pic - Carol gets up close and personal with a ten-month old baby Vervet, rescued this week, who already has three, yes three, pellets in his small body. And he also has a multi-fractured skull, hence the swollen shut eyes, after falling from a high tree as he tried to get away from whatever was causing the pain that was wracking his little frame.)

Every time we rescue a monkey who has been shot with a pellet gun we immediately flood the surrounding area with our “pellet gun leaflet”, which highlights the suffering associated with injuries caused by lead pellets, sets out the nature of the criminal offence of discharging a pellet gun in a residential area as contained in the relevant section and paragraphs of the Firearm Control Act, and calls on residents of the area to report any pellet gun abuse by neighbours to us.

Inevitably we get one of two responses, sometimes both:

- Defensive and indignant calls from individuals who think that they are the only one who found our leaflet in their post box and then claim that they are being set up by a neighbour who doesn’t like them. Often this call is from the very person who has already been pointed out to us by neighbours as the shooter!
- Animal-, even monkey- loving people who claim that one of their neighbours shoots at monkeys and other animals with a pellet gun.

Whichever response we get, it is usually pretty simple to identify who the shooter is. What isn’t that simple is convincing most witnesses to go to their local police station and make a sworn statement about what they have seen. But why this reticence to take the crucial step that will go a long way towards getting the suspect arrested and prosecuted?

(Second pic - A beautiful female Vervet, heavily pregnant, shot twice with a pellet gun this week. One pellet entered her abdomen and also killed her unborn baby. She suffered terribly and was found as she died, bent over with her face in her hands and the grimace etched on her face showing the excrutiating pain she endured for at least a week after being shot).

Mostly the answer from witnesses is that they don’t want to develop bad relations with the shooter (neighbour). Or, the shooter is “well connected” with the local police and will not get charged. Or, that the shooter is a “dangerous” person who might “do something” to the witness or even kill the witness’s own pets. And more…

Fact is that without the statement from the witness our hands, and those of the law enforcers, are tied. When we impress upon the witness how important their statement is, they usually say that they will definitely make a statement the next time they see the shooter using the pellet gun. That’s great, but then, as I point out, they must accept that they are also saying that another, and another, and another monkey will be shot before they are prepared to report the shooter and follow this up with a sworn statement to the police - just so that they don’t piss off their neighbour and spoil their “good” neighbour relationship. Get serious! Who in their right mind wants to have a good relationship with a moronic neighbour who you know is cruelly shooting monkeys and/or other animals? Would you want to maintain a "good" relationship with a neighbour who you discover is physically or sexually abusing children? I think not!

(Third pic - Grosvenor Girls' High School learners, Louise Joubert (left) and Rachel Van Rensburg, hold the pregnant female Vervet, paralysed in her lower body, who they watched over and fed in the school grounds last week until Monkey Helpline arrived to rescue her).

But we don't tell witnesses to have the guts to do the right thing. We realize that just phoning us is already a big step and we really appreciate this. We are very polite and we ask them nicely to think about it very carefully and then to let us know if they change their minds because they have it in their power to save more monkeys from horrible suffering and death.

(Bottom pic - The pregnant Vervet rescued from Gosvenor Girls' High School, paralysed by a lead pellet that smashed her spine, about to be taken to the vet to be euthanised).
And in the meantime, whilst they are making up their minds, and maintaining good relationships with the monkey murdering neighbour, we carry on the grim task of picking up the dead and dying monkeys!

"The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people are evil, but because of the people who do nothing about it". Albert Einstein

Wednesday, 04 August 2010

Win some! Lose some! Too many lost!

On a daily basis I am appalled by the callous indifference shown to Vervet monkeys by a small, morally dysfunctional group of people living in those residential areas also frequented by Vervet monkeys.

Recently a local newspaper published a number of letters from people antagonistically inclined towards the presence of monkeys around their homes. Fears about monkeys possibly attacking babies, spreading rabies and just being monkeys were graphically and emotively presented. This in spite of the fact that Monkey Helpline has for years been educating people regarding the truth about monkeys and debunking the myths that have lead some people to erroneously see them as vermin, carriers of rabies and being prone to attacking and severely injuring adults, children and dogs, even cats on the odd occasion!

Fact is that in KZN monkeys are NOT classified as “vermin” – they are protected nationally in terms of the Animal Protection Act, and provincially in terms of the KZN Nature Conservation Ordinance. They do NOT attack people or their pets, only biting when they are themselves attacked by dogs or if a person tries to catch or hurt a monkey. They are NOT carriers of rabies and there has NEVER been an officially recorded case of a rabid monkey in South Africa. There is NO monkey “over-population” or “population explosion” as so many uninformed people are quick to proclaim when calling for monkeys to be culled or captured and relocated. On the contrary, with so many urban monkeys dying daily from injuries sustained when hit by motor vehicles, attacked and bitten by dogs, shot with pellet guns, electrocuted on power lines, caught in razor wire, poisoned, trapped and snared, these deaths, including those of monkeys dying from injuries sustained during inter- and intra-troop fights which are particularly vicious due to the stress the monkeys are under because of persecution and habitat destruction, are far higher than any population can sustain and certainly far higher than they would suffer from natural predators.

As distressing as it is to deal with the daily consequences of violence against, and indifference to the needs of, monkeys it is also heartwarming and encouraging to know that there are far more people who care about monkeys and want to protect rather than harm them. Monkey-haters are a small, ethically retarded minority of the population but sadly their negative impact on the safety of monkeys is substantial. For example, this past week alone just in Hillcrest, pro-monkey residents assisted the Monkey helpline with rescuing three Vervet monkeys horribly injured after falling victim to human violence.

The first was a young male monkey caught in a snare set on a garden wall in the centre of residential Hillcrest. The snare, made of unraveled strands of bicycle brake cable, was set on top of a pre-cast wall used daily by a troop of monkeys. It was attached to a razor-wire bracket so that when the monkey was snared just above his left ankle, he also injured himself horribly on the razor-wire as he thrashed about trying to escape, even breaking some teeth on the razor-wire as he bit at this thing that was hurting him so much every time he moved (second pic down shows the vet removing a broken tooth from the monkey's jaw). Fortunately, a neighbour saw him struggling and called the Monkey Helpline. We rescued him and with the excellent veterinary treatment received from our vet at Riverside Vet Clinic, Dr Kerry Easson, we will soon be able to free him back to his troop.

The second was a beautiful, mature adult female rescued from a residential complex, also in central residential Hillcrest. Monkey Helpline was called after a caring resident saw what she thought was a dead monkey lying on her lawn. As she approached the monkey she saw movement and realized it was still alive. We rushed the monkey to our vet where an x-ray revealed five pellets in her body (third pic down)). One had passed through her liver causing an enormous abscess which had burst a day or two earlier spewing lethal infection into her abdomen. In spite of a heroic effort by Kerry, which included major surgery to repair pellet damage and flush the infectious pus from her abdomen, she died shortly after she was taken off the operating table. To add to the tragedy was the discovery of a freshly dead, perfectly formed little baby in her womb. It had literally been poisoned to death by the noxious liver abscess (fourth pic down shows mom and unborn baby).

Third was a rear-old little monkey struck by a motor vehicle just a few hundred meters from where the shot female had been rescued the previous day. In spite of the fact that monkeys were visibly crossing the busy road, and responsible motorists were slowing down, it took just one uncaring and unfocussed idiot to race along and right over the young monkey, leaving it for dead in the road and continuing his journey without any concern for the life he had, by all appearances, just ended. Fortunately the incident was witnessed by one of the many monkey-caring families living in the Highway area. They stopped to move the “dead” monkey to the side of the road, as much for its dignity and not wanting to see it squashed by other vehicles as to ensure that more monkeys were not run over as they ran into the road frantically trying to coax their unmoving, bleeding troop-mate to follow them. The actions of these animal lovers actually saved the young monkey’s life because he was still very much alive though deeply unconscious and bleeding profusely from injuries to his lower lip and jaw. Again Kerry’s skill and dedication ensured the monkey’s survival and once his cuts and broken jaw are healed he will be returned to his troop.

These are just three of the many monkeys we have been called out to rescue this past week. I’ll update you on a few more of them in the next blog posting, but one thing that needs to be said is that as much as it is the dramatic rescue effort that ends with a monkey in our carry-box, or wrapped in a towel if it has died, that people notice and support, none of this would be possible were it not for all the amazing people who care enough to phone us when they see a monkey in distress. Without those many phone calls interrupting our lives twenty-four hours a day we would be doing normal day jobs, earning good salaries, having weekends off, going on holiday, and, heaven forbid, maybe even watching an entire Sharks game without having to rush off and rescue a monkey, or one of the many other animals that come our way. Yes, without your calls we would be doing all these things, and every year hundreds of monkeys would suffer or die without any chance of being saved. THANK YOU FOR CARING ENOUGH TO MAKE THAT CALL!

Saturday, 31 July 2010

About a month ago, good friend Tracey Hartley, well known in the local animal care community for her efforts in helping feral cats, and equally well known for assisting in the finding of good homes for dogs and cats needing a “forever home”, responded to my call for assistance with a baby, eight month old Vervet monkey run over in Marine Drive, Umhlanga.

Tracey rushed to the scene of the accident, picked up the comatose baby whilst fending off the aggressively protective efforts of the mother Vervet monkey, and rushed to our vet where we met her.

Suffering severe concussion, a cracked scull and a severely damaged left eye, young Bazil, as the monk was named, came home to the awesome care of Carol and Jenny. Sadly Bazil lost the sight in his left eye (clearly visible in the pic of Bazil below) but made such good progress that last week, four weeks after Tracey rescued him, we took him back to Umhlanga in the hope of finding his troop and returning him to his mother.

Bazil’s alertness and interest in his surroundings when we arrived in Umhlanga convinced us that he knew we were near his home and his family. He had known the fresh smell of the sea from the day he was born.

We had no luck finding his troop and we were forced to take a very unhappy Bazil home with us. But before we left we chatted to the regular car guard at the spot where Bazil had been run over and he told us that Bazil’s troop visited the adjacent park every day. We left our card and he promised to call us the moment he next saw the troop.

Two days later we got the call and rushed down to Umhlanga with Bazil. The car guard, whose Rwandan name I could not for the life of me grasp, no matter how many times I asked him to repeat it, ran ahead of me to the other side of the park and pointed to the monkey footprints in the sand. Lots of footprints, but not a monkey in sight! In response to my question as to which way the monkeys were moving he pointed across the road and up the hill. Thanking him we started systematically driving up and down the roads in the area where we hoped to find Bazil’s troop. Luck was on our side and ten minutes later we encountered the lazily foraging troop not far from where we had started our search.

We followed our usual, very successful, process when attempting to return a young monkey to his/her troop and once convinced that this was definitely Bazil’s troop, and that his mother really wanted him back, we released him from the transport cage. Despite the fact that we have done countless returns like this, every one carries with it the same initial trepidation that turns to elation when the baby is back with its possesive mother

Just then I received another rescue call, unbelievably from a mere 500 meters away. I left Carol and Jenny monitoring Bazil’s return to his troop and rushed to the rescue. There I found a very sick-looking mature female Vervet with her seven-month-old youngster playing around her. She was obviously very ill and it took very little effort to catch her as she tried vainly to escape my net by running towards the edge of the roof as I chased after her.

Quickly back to Carol and Jenny who were happily videoing and photographing Bazil being groomed by some of his 'Class of 2009' troop-mates and an older sister. It took no time to convince them of the urgency with which we had to get the sick Vervet to our vet and they hastily bid Bazil goodbye and good luck and off we rushed. Tracey met us en route to the vet and confirmed that this monkey was from the small troop that visited her flat every day. Tracey knew this monkey well. The old girl had been coming to her for a snack every day for years, including that very morning.

At the vet we were horrified to see that the monkey was bleeding heavily from her side and was close to losing consciousness. “Horrified”, because when I had caught her there was not a drop of blood visible on her body and my initial, layman’s “diagnosis” was that she had been struck by a car or had possibly eaten some human medication or poison. I could almost say “no such luck”, because a quick check found two telltale small holes in her side and an x-ray confirmed that there were two pellets in her chest. Even though she was already close to death Kerry, our vet, decided to euthanise her - an act of kindness after such a vicious assault!

I called Tracey and gave her the sad news. She was devastated! Her letter that she subsequently sent to the local Northglen News, and which was published this week, follows below and says all that needs to be said:

“My husband and I were absolutely devastated to hear that our dear One Eye Mother monkey was shot yesterday and had to be euthanased. She was such a harmless old girl, she would visit our flat almost every day and would calmly sit and attend to all her children. Not only did she take excellent care of her own babies, but was also a foster Mom to two others, whose Mom's had met their fates at the cruel hands of humans in the area! Steve from Monkey Helpline & I had been planning to catch her and sterilise her, as we felt that she was getting on in life and already had enough to deal with, without having to care for another new baby. Unfortunately she was senselessly murdered before we could put that plan into action. We will miss you One Eye, but I am sure that your little band of children who relied on you for love and protection, will miss you more!

Deeply saddened!
Tracey & Dalton Hartley

Nothing we do or achieve will bring back this old monkey, nor will it change the fact that she died frightened and in pain, distraught at being separated from her baby who, after seeing his dying mother caught and boxed, was last seen running terrified after the rest of the troop, some of whom were still visible in the distance. Besides showing us the pellets in her body, the x-ray also revealed that she was, to our relief, not pregnant!

If ever we find the morally retarded scumbag who so callously shot two pellets into that old Vervet, we will make every effort to have him arrested, charged and punished to the full extent that the law permits. And hopefully, like the idiot who was arrested last week after shooting a “pet” baby Vervet in front of the children in whose home the little monkey was being kept, he will spend at least one night in jail.

If any good can come from the cruel death of this old Vervet, then it must be that we are driven to even greater effort to expose the horror of pellet gun related cruelty that is daily perpetrated against monkeys and other animals, and that our efforts result in more arrests and successful prosecutions of offenders, more stringent controls on the acquisition, ownership and use of pellet guns, and greater understanding on the part of the public about the dangers of pellet guns!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


This posting is devoted to a few of the many positive outcomes of our efforts to help monkeys, and believe me, there are many. It is our optimism with every rescue we are called out to that there will be a happy ending, and for us that translates very simply to being able to release the rescued monkey back to where it was living with its troop before we captured it.

Unfortunately, the reality of monkey rescues is all too often sketched in blood on the stark canvas of human intolerance, cruelty, indifference and speciesism. And the upshot of this is that when we write our blog we are frequently angry, heartbroken, bewildered and frustrated. So, more often than not we find ourselves recounting the tragedies of our daily callouts, not because we thrive on doom and tragedy, but because we believe that unless the public knows exactly what is happening to monkeys in this increasingly monkey-unfriendly world, we won’t get the support we need to make a positive difference for monkeys and other animals who all share this fragile planet. Scattered throughout the dark pain and suffering there are bursts of light that recharge our emotional batteries and keep us going in the belief that every rescue has some good in it, even if that “good” is the humane taking of a tortured and doomed life. But, there are happy endings, inspirational endings, none more so than those recounted here.

During the third quarter of 2009 we rescued two adult male Vervets who had each suffered severe, life-threatening injury to their left leg (primates have arms and legs).

Accacia, the male rescued in Westville and named after the road where he was trapped, had an ugly, painful wound into his left ankle and was unable to use that leg at all.

Michael, rescued in Mkuhla Road, Glen Anil, had survived electrocution on municipal electricity supply lines but the severity of the damage to his lower left leg meant that it would only be a matter of time before he lost the damaged portion of the leg, which would include his left foot.

Both monkeys had contracted severe infection as a result of their injuries.

Our daily monkey dealings have shown us that there are many monkeys who have lost all or part of a limb and survived without the benefit of human intervention and the miracle of modern veterinary care. But we also know that many get infection in similar injuries and suffer terribly before they die. It is up to us to judge each case on its individual merits and, given the extensive rescue, treatment and care experience we have gained over the past fifteen years, to take the action we deem appropriate. So, both Accacia and Michael were trapped and taken to our vet for assessment and necessary treatment.

The vet decided that Accacia’s left leg should be amputated two-thirds up the thigh due to the physical damage and severe infection in both muscle and bone.

Michael’s electrocution-damaged lower leg shriveled and eventually dropped off. Fifteen-year old Monkey helpline volunteer, Shannon Wood, nearly fainted when she discovered Michael’s foot on the bottom of his cage when she was helping with cage-cleaning in our “monkey high- care”.

So now we had to adult male Vervets in our care, each having lost the use of their left leg. Initially we had been certain that both monkeys, each with only three fully functional limbs, would have a good quality of life in a local Vervet sanctuary while they were being assessed for possible release, but that option failed to materialize as the sanctuary had reached capacity and could not accommodate any more adult male Vervets. Direct release became the only option. After seven months with us, a number of those spent in our large outside exercise cages (top pic shows a fit looking Accacia in the exercise cage), both Accacia and Michael were the picture of health. They were fit and strong and able to use their one leg as if they still had two. But we only decided that release was worth the risks after lengthy consideration of all the possible outcomes and much pestering of our primate-knowledgeable friends for their thoughts and advice.

Came the day of the release and much excitement accompanied our catching and boxing of the two boys in preparation of transporting them to their respective places of original rescue capture.

We took Accacia to the very garden where we originally caught him, and the moment the box was opened he sped to freedom, no doubt convinced that the months of captivity spent plotting and planning his escape had suddenly and unexpectedly borne fruit (second from top pic shows Accacia racing back to freedom).

Michael’s release was equally heart-warming as he too sped from the box to freedom (bottom pic), a freedom which to him seemed momentarily to have been thwarted by a palisade fence he must have slipped through easily many times before. But months of five-star meals had added a few centimeters to his girth and he was brought to an abrupt, if very brief halt, before some strenuous wriggling got him through and he could lope casually into the adjacent, unfenced garden and climb easily to the top of a big tree from where he could survey a territory last seen seven months before, but still remembered in every minute detail.

We had told a number of monkey-friendly people living within the territories of Accacia and Michael about the release of the two and asked to be notified of any sightings. To our delight we received news of sightings within days and continue to receive frequent, positive feedback about the activities of both Michael and Accacia.

Three weeks after the release, we had the heart-stopping experience of having Accacia cross busy Blair Athol Road right in front of us in 5 ‘o clock traffic, only about one monkey minute from our house where he had spent the previous seven months. Could it be that he was missing the food and security of life with Carol in the Monkey helpline “high-care” and was trying to find his way back to us? That question was answered two days later when, going down to feed the monkeys in the outside enclosures, we found a contented looking Accacia on top of what had been his exercise cage (a jail by any other name…) for three months.

What would happen if he was confronted by adult males from our resident troop of Vervets? We got the answer a few days later when we watched, enthralled and in trepidation, as Accacia was challenged by one of the young adult males scouting a safe route for his fellow troop members. Being a young adult himself, Accacia survived the encounter and those that followed on subsequent days, having some ugly but not life threatening injuries inflicted on him by the bigger, stronger males.

A week after his first encounter with the troop he had challenged daily for three months from the safety of his cage, Accacia was accepted into the troop with which he now visits our garden daily ( pic third from top shows a comfortably free-again, banana-eating Accacia in our garden).

As for Michael, he continues to enjoy the company of the troop he was a part of when we rescued him. One lady called to say she sees him often and recently said he was “running like the wind in the tree tops”. A few weeks ago we received a rescue callout that took us to Huckleberry Road in Glen Anil. On our arrival I realized that we were just over the hill from where we had released Michael. I asked the caller if she had seen a male monkey with his left foot missing. She laughed and told us to go and look in the trees behind her house. There, sitting casually on a branch surrounded by a collection of other Vervets, was Michael. He was so well and looked as if he had never spent a day away from his troop. And we knew he had been unconditionally accepted back into his troop when the alpha male walked along the branch Michael was sitting on, brushed past him and continued on his way to another tree without giving Michael a second glance. I’m not ashamed to say I had a tear of joy trickle down my cheek and when I looked across at Carol she too was teary-eyed with happiness and relief at seeing Michael so comfortably back where he belongs.

To end on a humorous note, last week we received a call from an elderly lady living in Cypress Road, Glen Anil. She said she was terribly concerned about a badly injured monkey who was in her garden. I asked the usual questions and learnt that the entire troop was there in her garden, including a big male whose foot was missing. Would we please come and catch this poor “suffering” monkey, and would we have to euthanise him? I asked if it was his left foot missing? Yes! Was the “injured” leg bleeding? No! Other than the missing foot, did the monkey look healthy? Yes, very! This was definitely Michael, and the lady was delighted to have met him.

I started this blog post intending to share at least four happy releases with you, but the others will have to wait for another posting, otherwise I'll be up till 3am again.

What the release of Michael and Accacia has taught us is that, given the chance, Vervets can survive, unconfined, with disabilities resulting from natural and man-made causes, even if those disabilities are as severe as the full or partial loss of a limb. We owe it to them to give them every chance to do so!

Tuesday, 06 July 2010

More Monkey Misery

Its been almost two months since my last blog posting and the time has really been filled with the usual number of monkey rescues, which included a capuchin and a White-eared Marmoset, as well as rescues of all kinds of other animals, including dogs, cats, chickens and numerous other birds and even a few snakes. But what I want to share with you in this posting are the experiences we had on three particular rescue call-outs very recently.

Wherever possible we make use of the printed media to publicise the incidents we deal with, firstly to educate the public about the consequences of human intolerance and cruelty towards animals, and secondly to try and get the message through to those morally retarded sub-humans who perpetrate acts of violence against animals, that they are under scrutiny and will be prosecuted at the first opportunity that arises

Information supplied to the Queensburgh News:

Over a year ago we, the Animal Rights Africa Monkey Helpline project, were called out to the Northdene home of a family who is visited daily by a troop of Vervet monkeys. They love the monkeys and routinely put out some food for them to forage as they pass through. The monkeys stop only for as long as it takes them to eat what is there, then they move on peacefully. They never attack the humans or their pets, don’t purposely trash the garden and certainly don’t do anything that would warrant any act of violence being directed at them by humans.

The reason we were called to this particular home was out of concern for a female monkey who had a wire snare tightly caught around her chest. Our efforts to trap her were unsuccessful because she was so nervous of humans that she would not go anywhere near the trap we set for her. Efforts to dart her proved just as frustrating because she would flee the moment she saw anything suspicious. Inhibited by the constriction of the snare that was now cutting into her flesh, she lost weight to the point where the snare was actually loose enough for her to work it down from her chest to her lower body, and from there it was just a question of time before she managed free herself from the snare completely. She even had a new baby this past baby season.

Then today, June 13, we received a phone call from a house just around the corner from where we had for so long tried to catch the snared monkey. Arriving there we found a mature adult female Vervet monkey lying in the garden, the rest of her troop in close attendance. We caught her easily as her futile efforts to escape using only her arms to drag herself along were pathetically hopeless. Our worst fears were confirmed when the vet’s x-rays showed that she had at least four lead pellets in her body and that the one had entered her right side and lodged in the spinal cord, paralyzing her lower body and leaving her in excruciating pain and fearfully confused at not being able to walk or climb or protect her six or seven month old baby. The baby had sat on a branch above her bravely threatening us as we caught her, but the little fellow's threats had no effect on the humans he must have believed were going to take his mom off for a meal. What else could he expect of humans given the experiences he'd had of them so far during his short life.

And then, to add to the tragedy, we noticed the scar encircling her chest and back and we knew too that this was the female who had cheated death once before when she managed to get rid of the snare that threatened to choke her to death. This time she would not be so lucky and it was with heavy hearts that we witnessed her life slip gently away as the vet did the kindest thing she could and euthanised her. But spare a thought for the little orphan who will now have to make his way through every day, facing all the obstacles of monkey life in an urban area and hope to have an older brother, sister or aunt to snuggle close to at night!

We drove home vowing to continue our fight to protect these beautiful and fascinating little animals from the actions of those cruel and ignorant humans who so readily resort to violence against innocents who are unable to defend themselves. Over eighty percent of all monkeys rescued by the Monkey Helpline have got lead pellets lodged in their bodies!

Discharging a pellet gun in an urban area, ands even pointing a pellet gun at person or property, is an offence in terms of the Firearms Control Act. Report incidents of pellet gun crime to Monkey Helpline or your nearest SAPS or Metro Police station, and help us protect the monkeys and other animals, and even humans, against these bloodthirsty criminals.

Information supplied to the Northglen News:

This past week has again turned out to be a bad one for monkeys generally, and particularly for the monkeys living in the Durban North area.

Last week the Monkey Helpline was alerted to a monkey in Umgeni Heights with what appeared to be black oil covering her entire body. After a number of phone calls from concerned residents, Carol Booth and Steve Smit managed to trap the monkey and discovered that she was in fact covered in a dark varnish or bitumen type substance.

“This was obviously a deliberate act of cruelty by some uncaring person who must have trapped the monkey and then poured the varnish over her whilst she was confined in the trap”, said Carol. “The ignorance and antagonism of some anti-monkey people is unbelievable. They still believe in the old myth that by catching and painting a monkey, usually white, then releasing it, you will instill such fear in the remainder of the troop that they will run away and never be seen in the area again. It stems from the nineteenth century days of the boers who painted baboons and monkeys with white wash or wet them and threw bread flour all over them to keep them out of their crops. It did not work then and doesn’t work now. Every painted monkey we have rescued was found in their troop in the same area they were painted. It is just very cruel and very unnecessary”.

“What makes this particular case even worse is that this young female is pregnant with her first baby and unless we are able to clean her without removing too much hair she will have to stay with us in captivity and give birth to her baby here. This will cause her terrible stress and depending how long she is with us will determine how successfully she and her baby can be integrated back into their troop”.

In another case of blatant cruelty and in contravention of both the Firearm Control Act and the Animal Protection Act, a young monkey was injured after a rock was thrown at it from a residential property in Sunningdale by a construction worker. According to an eye witness the monkey fell to ground crying pitifully, with a number of other monkeys frantically trying to help it. After a while a person emerged from the property and took the still crying monkey inside. A short while later the sound of a pellet gun being discharged was heard and the monkey was silenced.

Monkey Helpline was called and managed to take possession of the monkey’s body. Steve said that when he first asked for the monkey’s body, the person who admitted to having killed the monkey said he had buried it. However when the body was brought out it was very obvious that it had not been buried. “It was wrapped in brown paper and was obviously destined for the pot or for muti use”, said Steve. “We could see that the monkey had been shot into the chest below the left arm and when I asked who had shot it the same person admitted to having done so. He claimed that ‘hundreds’ of monkeys had rampaged through the property and were attacking his dogs. Both dogs were right there and had not a mark on them”, said Steve.

Steve said that the incident had been reported to both the SPCA and the SAPS and that Monkey Helpline and the other witnesses to the incident would submit sworn statements in an effort to get the person who shot the monkey prosecuted. “We have x-rays of the body showing the pellet and are awaiting the vet’s report to substantiate our statements”.

Carol said that much antagonism and violence towards monkeys was based on ignorance or arrogance. “By educating people, and prosecuting where necessary, we hope to change this. People must realize that the troops of monkeys they see have lived here for hundreds of years and that our development has impacted adversely on them. They have a right to be here and we must learn how to live in harmony with them. This only requires a bit of tolerance and understanding on our part. Whilst many people fear being attacked by monkeys or catching rabies from them, these fears are unfounded. Monkeys only bite in extreme cases of provocation and only in self defense. Dogs only get bitten after they have attacked and caught a monkey. And as for rabies, there has never been a recorded case of a rabid monkey in South Africa. Monkeys can get rabies just like any other mammal, including humans, but they are not rabies carriers”.

Carol and Steve ask people to contact the Monkey Helpline if they are having problems with monkeys or know of anyone shooting them. “We do our best to provide practical, humane solutions and it is definitely not necessary to resort to cruelty when dealing with monkeys”, concluded Carol.

Tuesday, 04 May 2010

Vervet Victims

Its already May and this has been a seriously busy year of rescues. Baby season which started in September has tested us like never before and, as you can see from the stats below, its literally been raining baby monkeys. But also monkeys with injuries of every other kind!

Every month Carol goes through our diary and vet records and collates all the information that enables us to produce stats like those for January 2010 that follow. Technical hassles have made it difficult to collate and present the stats for February through March, but they will be available shortly. In the meantime, read on and weep…

January 2010 statistics showing the details of Monkey Helpline rescue call-outs and the outcomes:

Rescue call-outs - 51

Survived - 12 (Includes 5 babies)
Dead (Euthanised, DOA, DAR, etc) - 39 (19 MVA, 8 shot, 6 dog bite, 3 monkey bites, 2 Tetanus, 1 old age)

Dead made up of - 12 adult females (1 firearm, 1 pellet gun, 1 monkey bite, 1 tetanus, 1 old age, 2 dog bite, 5 MVA); 9 adult males (1 tetanus, 3 pellet gun, 5 MVA); 9 youngsters (1 pellet gun, 1 monkey bite, 3 MVA, 4 dog bite); 9 babies (1 monkey bite, 6 MVA, 2 pellet gun)

Released from “high care” : 8

Sent to rehab (CROW) : 2

Injured monkeys monitored/medicated in situ : 6

Baby season 2009/2010:

Just for interest, the number of babies rescued and handed to surrogate moms by Monkey Helpline since 21 September 2009 and up to 10 February 2010, stands at 34, made up as follows:

- 3 to the Hamptons
- 2 to Joan Chalmers
- 5 to Sandy Burrell
- 7 to Jenny Morgans
- 16 to Carol Booth ( 7 died – 1 premature with lung complications, 2 organ failure, 1 hypothermic, 2 severe septicemia, 1 with injuries from being caught then dropped from high by a Yellowbill Kite)
- 1 with snared mother to Tumbili Sanctuary

Monkey Helpline also recommended and facilitated the direct transfer of 1 baby from Freeme Johannesburg to The Hamptons.

Another 4 were rescued by Monkey Helpline but then released back to mothers (2 caught in razor wire, 1 trapped under fallen bird bath, 1 MVA).

During the above period (21.9.09 to date) Monkey Helpline dealt with or was made aware of over 50 baby Vervets dead in situ (includes 9 dead listed for January 2010 but excludes babies who died with surrogate moms)

At the time of posting this blog the number of babies rescued by Monkey helpline since September 2009 stands at 50. Of these, five babies were reunited with their mothers. Details in next posting of statistics. Tragically sad as is the situation that brings every baby Vervet into our care, the rescue of two babies on consecutive days after their mothers were shot with pellets and had to be euthanised sits right up their with the saddest. One was shot in Westville on Christmas eve and the other was shot in Verulem on Christmas day!

But, what is going to happen to all the babies? We are five months away from the next baby season and already we have more babies and older monkeys than the system can accommodate as it currently functions. Rehabilitation centres are doing the best they can given the limitations imposed on them by lack of finances and other resources and also the conservation authorities. There is a dearth of rehabilitation sites, and Vervet monkeys just don’t feature on the radar of the conservation authorities.

Fact is that Vervets in KwaZul-Natal are in CRISIS!!!

This dilemma will be the topic of serious discussion in blogs to follow.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


About two weeks ago I received a call from a friend of mine who works at the Pietermaritzburg SPCA. In her office was a young African man, Linda, who said he had a small, female Vervet monkey at home who was sick and he wanted, a), to have it treated at the SPCA and, b) to get a permit to keep her. My friend knew that if the monkey arrived at the SPCA the owner would be advised to hand her over to the SPCA, and as had happened to a similarly aged pet Vervet a few weeks previously, she would be euthanised. So she phoned and asked me to explain to Linda the procedure for having the Vervet permitted by the provincial conservation authorities.

She put Linda on the line and after spending a few minutes explaining to him that he would under no circumstances be issued a permit to keep the Vervet, that the Vervet would start showing aggressive behaviour that would result in him having to cage-confine her permanently, and that it was not in the Vervets best interests to be deprived the opportunity of being introduced to other Vervets under controlled conditions, he agreed to meet us the next day to hand the monkey into our care.

The next day, which was April 16, 2010, Carol and I met Linda at a prearranged time and place and drove him to his home in Thembalihle outside Pietermaritzburg. As we stopped outside his home, a young monkey tumbled over the door and came bouncing up the bank and onto the fence next to the gate to greet Linda. We guessed her age at about sixteen to eighteen months. Linda reached down and said, “Woza”, and she immediately clambered up his arm and snuggled into his neck. I think Carol and I both had a lump in our throats as we realized that this happiness would soon turn to sadness for both of them as we wrenched her away and left them both devastated. But isn’t that almost always the way it is when we keep wild animals as pets?

We took some photos of Linda and Bongo, as we learnt she had been named. Then as gently as I could I pried Bongo off Linda and wrapped her safely in a towel for Carol to hold as we drove away. Just before we left, Linda, with tears in his eyes, listening to Bongo’s cries of anguish and fear, asked one last time if I would promise to take good care of the little monkey. I gave my word, and at the same time an intense anger overwhelmed me as I visualized the tragic outcome for Bongo had Linda handed her into the “care” of the SPCA in Pietermaritzburg the day before, and the devastating heartbreak and sense of betrayal that would have flooded over Linda. I resolved to put extra effort into informing members of the public of the NSPCA policies relating to primates that are taken into the control of SPCA branches country-wide.

Once away from there we put Bongo into a transport box for both her and our comfort. It was then we realized why Linda had wanted to have her treated by a vet. She suddenly had a seizure which was preceded by screams of what must have been terror or pain and lay on the bottom of the box quivering. It took about five to ten minutes for her to recover sufficiently to sit up and then she kept up a constant chatter of anxiety. This was understandable considering that Linda and his family were her “troop” and being a juvenile, and a female at that, separation from her “troop” was a frightening experience experience.

Once at home we transferred Bongo from the transport box to a holding cage where she could see some of the other young monkeys in our care. It will take a while for her to relax and start feeling comfortable with us, but we are patient and prepared to give her all the time and care she needs, and hopefully she can soon be introduced to other ex-pet monkeys whose only future lies in a sanctuary. It is highly unlikely that Bongo will ever be released into the wild!

But how did Linda actually get Bongo?

Linda says that towards the end of 2008 he was living in Panorama outside Pietermaritzburg. He happened to pass some men who had cornered a mother monkey with her baby still clinging to her and who were throwing stones at the mother monkey trying to kill her so they could eat her. One of the stones knocked Bongo off her mother who managed to escape. Bongo was unconscious from the blow to her head and the men were about to toss her into the bush, saying she was too small for them to eat, when Linda asked them if he could have her.

For two days baby Bongo was in a coma, but then she started slowly regaining consciousness. Linda cared for her diligently, feeding her on human baby milk formula with a small feeding bottle he especially bought for her. She lived in his home as one of the family, loved and pampered by everyone in the household. Her favourite foods were banana, apple and pear.

On three separate occasions the wild monkeys that came around Linda’s home attacked and bit Bongo. One of these attacks was by a large, lone male and she was severely injured. But she learnt to hide in the house when the monkeys came by and Linda and family then moved to Thembalihle where there are no other monkeys. She was a familiar sight to the locals and every day the children living close by would come to visit and feed her. When I phoned Linda later that first evening to tell him that Bongo was safe and comfortable, he said that the children had just been to visit Bongo and were saddened to learn that she had been taken away by us.

The moment we drove away from Linda with Bongo wrapped in a towel and held against Carol’s chest, that little money started a journey that will see her become a real monkey, with real monkeys as her family and even though it is unlikely, though not impossible, that she will ever join a rehabilitation programme, she will live the best life possible in a sanctuary where she will be bonded with other Vervets who for various reasons cannot be released to the wild but who deserve to be given a chance at life!

PS. The National Council of SPCA’s has a policy which states that any indigenous primate, but particularly Vervet Monkeys and Baboons, that come into the hands of any SPCA in South Africa, and who cannot be released back to the wild within five days or be sent to an SPCA-accredited rehabilitation facility, MUST BE EUTHANISED at that SPCA or at the vet used by that SPCA. So, if you want to be sure that the monkey or baboon you have rescued or cared for is given the best chance of being properly rehabilitated or placed in a reputable sanctuary, don’t just presume that this will happen if you surrender the animal to your local SPCA. Rather contact the Monkey Helpline first and we will assist and advise you in order to ensure the most ethically acceptable outcome for the animal!

In a future blog posting I will unpack the NSPCA’s reasoning that led to its adoption of the policy that would have resulted in the euthanasia of Bongo had Linda surrendered her to the Pietermaritzburg SPCA!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

And all those monkeys?

People often ask us what happens to the monkeys we rescue, which is a pretty intelligent question, sometimes! I mean, what would you think if these two crazy people arrived in response to your desperate phone call, jumped out of their vehicle brandishing nets and carrying a transport box, cornered a large, really fierce and angry looking male Vervet, then netted him, tossed him into the box and disappeared over the horizon?

Well, its not quite that bad and we don’t “toss” monkeys into boxes – well not that often, anyway, and lots of the monkeys we catch are not “large, really fierce and angry looking male Vervets”. Many are tiny, recently born babies who are the victims of various mishaps, even being shot with pellet guns. YES, pellet guns, even though you can hardly imagine that their can be such scum, sub-humans alive who would actually aim a pellet gun at a six week-old baby and shoot a pellet into its little body, smashing flesh and bone and ending a miracle that had only just begun!

But back to the question. If you consider that we rescue an average of three monkeys every two days, what do we do with all the monkeys?

Sadly, a lot of the monkeys we get called out to are dead by the time we get to them, or die en route to the vet, or are euthanised at the vet due to the severity of their injuries or illness, or die after treatment because their injury or illness was so bad. But many also survive. All sick or injured monkeys rescued by Monkey Helpline are taken to our vet, usually Dr Kerry Easson at Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Durban North, but if necessary also the great vets at Northdene vet clinic in Queensburgh or the Westville vet hospital in Westville, the wonderful after hours vets and nurses at the Sherwood emergency vet clinic in Sherwood, Durban, or Dr Mike Toft at the Waterfall vet clinic in Waterfall outside of Kloof and Hillcrest where they are.checked over and treated, then moved to Carol’s house in Westville, where I also happen to live, and are cared for by Carol until they are ready to be released back where they came from, moved to a rehabilitation centre or a sanctuary depending on whether they can be returned to freedom, or placed with a human surrogate mom if they are still young babies. Some are subsequently ehthanised if they do not respond positively to treatment, but this is a decision taken only after discussion between ourselves and the vet. In every decision made about the treatment and future of any monkey we rescue, quality of life is at the top of the list of considerations. It is always about the monkeys – never about us! And in making critical decisions about the treatment and future of any monkey we can always rely on the advice and support of our great friend and Monkey Helpline care and rehabilitation advisor, Karen Trendler and also veterinary primate specialist, Dr Bruce Peck.

Carol has set aside two adjacent rooms in her house that serve as the Monkey Helpline “high care”, and it is here that the monkeys spend time in cages suited to their condition until such time as they are ready to move on. Considering that some monkeys come into our care with broken limbs, severe concussion or other serious injuries or illness, their period of convalescence can be as much as six months, during which time they become unfit and suffer visible muscle atrophy. Before being released they need to exercise and regain fitness as well as balance and hand, foot and eye coordination. So they are first moved to large exercise cages in the garden where they spend at least two weeks getting survival fit and strong again. Then they are boxed and transported to a pre-selected release site and set free to meet whatever new challenges life throws at them. When monkeys are rescued by us and subsequently released by us, irrespective of how long we care for them, these are known as “hot releases”, because they don’t entail the lengthy rehabilitation process of release – this latter process, if done correctly, can take up to three years of bonding a “troop” of genetically unrelated monkeys and takes place at a registered rehabilitation centre and release site.

Female Vervet monkeys, unlike males, have to be released back into the troop of their birth. If released into the territory of another troop of Vervets they will be attacked and severely injured, often killed, by the resident females and their offspring. The reason for this is that female Vervets are fiercely protective of their territory which they never leave from birth till death – it is their ancestral home! The female Vervets you see at any given place are the descendents of female Vervets who lived in that territory many generations ago, over a period that could literally have spanned hundreds of years. The upshot of this female territoriality is that if for whatever reason a female cannot be released back to her troop, she must be placed at one of the rehabilitation facilities or at a sanctuary.

Any monkey not yet an adult and who cannot be released back to his/her troop of birth will be placed at a rehabilitation facility or sanctuary, with rehabilitation always the first prize.

As far as babies are concerned, their rescue, care and rehabilitation is so specific that I will do a separate blog just for them. Suffice to say that as soon as possible after being rescued, a baby monkey, and here we are talking about new-borns to three months old, is placed with a human surrogate mom, who is registered with the provincial conservation authority after successfully completing a two-day “early care” course and also being able to care for the babies in a manner prescribed in specially drafted Norms and Standards. As a rescue organization we are not ideally placed to care for baby Vervets so as soon as we are able to, immediately if possible, they are transferred to a surrogate mom. If injured in any way or ill, they remain with us in Carol’s care, or with Monkey Helpline baby care-giver and also registered surrogate mom, Jenny Morgans, until sufficiently recovered to be transferred. Tragically, so many babies were orphaned this past “baby-season”, that all the surrogate moms reached more than double the recommended capacity and Carol has ended up caring for eighteen babies after we had already transferred seventeen babies to surrogate moms. Jenny is fortunate to have the assistance of her daughter Angela and her housekeeper, Agnes, in caring for her monkey babies. Both are registered surrogate moms. A priceless bonus for both Jenny and Carol is fourteen-year-old Shannon Wood who spends every spare moment helping out with the monkeys. Shannon even has her own Monkey Helpline Facebook site. (Look up Shannon Wood on Facebook)
That’s it in a nutshell. But don’t forget that monkeys in captivity have to be fed, medicated when necessary, and their cages kept clean, by Carol and me! This starts at dawn every day and only ends when the monks go to sleep in the evening. When you are caring for anywhere between twenty and fifty monkeys – forty as I sit here typing – in a high care facility, a spare moment is an extremely rare commodity. It also means that everything other than catching monkeys, taking them to the vet, and caring for them as they recover, gets done between 10pm and 3am the following morning.
The pics you see here from top to bottom are just a few of the seriously injured monkeys we managed to rescue, treat and, after recovery, release to their troop, place in a rehabilitation programme or send to a sanctuary.
The little six-week old girl in the top pic was severely injured during a fight between her mother and other monkeys. With good veterinary care and Carol's tlc she recovered to the point of being able to live amongst other monkeys at the Tumbili Sanctuary of Shesh and Dr Malcolm Roberts in Ashburton near Pietermaritzburg.
The second pic is a juvenile male Vervet who fell into an oil trap at a refinery south of Durban. We managed to clean all the oil off him and also out of his tummy and intestines and released him to his delighted mother two weeks later.
The third pic is of a sub-adult Vervet caught in a snare in the up-market suburb of La Lucia north of Durban. The snare was removed, the wounds sutured and he was released back to his troop two weeks later.
The large adult male in the bottom pic sustained horrendous injuries to his right thigh and calf muscles when he jumped from a tree, whilst defending his position as alpha male against a would-be challenger, and was impaled on a steel palisade fence. That he even survived was a miracle. Not only did he survive but, due to the awsome skills of Dr Max Taylor of the Northdene Vetereinary Clinic in Queensburgh, he regained almost full use of his leg and is now the alpha male of a troop being prepared for rehabilitation at the WATCH Vervet facility near Vryheid.
And now I can just see you all shedding tears for us. So sweet. Thank you!